Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln ...
A new study suggests that when regular Fox News viewers spend some time watching different sources for their news, their heads may at least temporarily become less full of shit. Or at least that's our vernacular translation of the preprint study titled "The manifold effects of partisan media on viewers’ beliefs and attitudes: A field experiment with Fox News viewers," by political scientists David E. Broockman of UC Berkeley and Joshua L. Kalla of Yale. It's available to read for free at the Center for Open Science.
The researchers used data from a media analytics company to identify people who regularly watched Fox News, then had 304 out of the group of 763 participants watch at least seven hours a week of primetime CNN programming for most of September 2020, while the rest of the participants served as a control group, continuing to watch Fox. As an incentive, the folks selected to watch CNN were paid $15 for each hour they watched, and to ensure they actually watched the programming on any given evening, they had to answer simple quiz questions about the programs they saw, like identifying a guest or a topic discussed on the show.
Broockman and Kalla write in the paper's abstract that
Despite regular Fox viewers being largely strong partisans, we found manifold effects of changing the slant of their media diets on their factual beliefs, attitudes, perceptions of issues’ importance, and overall political views.
The changes they observed stemmed at least partly from what they call "partisan coverage filtering, wherein partisan outlets selectively report information, leading viewers to learn a biased set of facts." As a result of watching CNN, for instance, study participants became more likely to believe that Fox News wouldn't report negative information about Donald Trump. The participants remained highly conservative in their views, and after the study ended, they mostly went back to only watching Fox.
The study seems to contradict one major bit of conventional wisdom on how partisan beliefs affect the way people deal with contrasting information. Instead of rejecting "information contrary to their partisan loyalties and from opposing sources," the study participants, all "highly engaged partisans," actually "could be persuaded by viewing opposition partisan media instead of their own" — at least during the duration of the study, while they watched CNN instead.
What We Talk About When We Talk About News
It's a pretty cool study, especially in terms of its breakdown of how partisan media communicate. The researchers note that at the most basic level, media outlets set agendas through the topics they decide to cover, determining for viewers what counts as "news." In addition to that, there's "framing" — emphasis of particular aspects of an issue that are seen as necessary for evaluating it.
During September 2020, for instance, CNN devoted lots of airtime to the coronavirus pandemic and the Trump administration's flailing attempts to deal with it, while Fox News primarily focused on protests against police violence following the murder of George Floyd, with a particular emphasis — hell, let's call it an obsession — on the threat of riots and violence. Both networks also covered the topic of voting by mail, but from completely different perspectives. CNN emphasized that absentee voting is secure and reliable, and reported on "Russian attempts to undermine confidence in the 2020 election, especially by reducing confidence in voting by mail." Fox News, on the other hand, "barely covered these topics, instead detailing how voting by mail would be susceptible to fraud."
In addition to such "agenda-setting" and "framing" — fairly common aspects of media analysis — Broockman and Kalla also look at what they call "partisan coverage filtering," or the selective reporting of information that might influence how a viewer thinks about particular topics. For instance — my examples, not the researchers' — CNN's coverage of voting by mail might emphasize that several states have run most of their elections by mail for years, even decades, with hundreds of millions of votes cast and no significant instances of fraud. Fox News might cherry pick the few instances of problems with voter registration or people voting twice, to suggest fraud is common, without any larger context to put those rare cases in perspective.
Escape From Fox Island
So what happened when a bunch of very conservative Fox News viewers regularly watched CNN instead? The researchers point out that a lot of theories "would suggest that partisan media’s effects will be limited because those who choose to watch it already have strong views," or that partisan viewers would simply reject or resist information from outside their own bubble. That's one of those depressing standbys of media studies that that makes us wonder whether there's even any point in trying to bring facts to an issue like climate change or immigration or anything else.
However, the researchers say, that conventional wisdom may itself be based on limited data, since "existing research has not measured the effects of sustained exposure to televised partisan media on individuals’ beliefs and attitudes." And when we think about it, most of the stuff we've read on the matter looked at how very partisan readers react to, say, reading one news article from outside their worldview, but not so much to longer exposure to different views. (As my very Catholic mother might have seen it, I might have kept my faith if I'd only read one Kurt Vonnegut novel, but going off to college corrupted me completely. But I digress.)
In the group that watched an average of seven hours of CNN per week, the researchers found that, yes indeed, the viewers had absorbed some new information and ways of thinking. In surveys given partway through and at the end of the CNN-viewing period, the researchers found that viewers had different "factual perceptions of current events (i.e., beliefs) and knowledge about the 2020 presidential candidates’ positions." The experimental group was also less aware of what Fox was covering and more aware of what CNN covered, as you'd expect, and the folks paid to watch CNN actually came to see the COVID-19 pandemic as a more important issue than the racial justice protests Fox News covered, which you might not expect.
The experimental group also experienced shifts in how they perceived the news:
For example, we found large effects on attitudes and policy preferences about COVID-19. We also found changes in evaluations of Donald Trump and Republican candidates and elected officials. [...] Finally, consistent with participants underestimating the extent of partisan media’s bias at baseline, treatment group participants became more likely to agree that if Donald Trump made a mistake, Fox News would not cover it—i.e., that Fox News engages in partisan coverage filtering.
The study also found that the group watching CNN became "substantially more supportive of vote-by-mail" than the control group that continued watchin only Fox. Weirdly, while the treatment group gained more negative impressions of Donald Trump, they didn't show any corresponding positive impression of Joe Biden. Yup, they were watching CNN all right.
The researchers also note that participants didn't change their minds at all on topics that hadn't been substantially addressed by either network, like climate change or "support for democratic norms." It would be pretty interesting to look at how Fox News viewers might change their opinions on that if they'd watched a lot of CNN or MSNBC following the January 6 insurrection.
What Does It All Mean? Is There Hope For Meemaw?
In addition to challenging the conventional wisdom that partisan audiences can't be persuaded to modify their views, the authors also say their results
suggest that partisan media may affect voters’ choices at least in part because it hides information about aligned incumbents’ failures and distorts perceptions of political rivals. This suggests that partisan media does not only present a challenge for the opposing party, it may present a challenge for democracy which may deserve attention from policymakers.
There are certainly further questions that need to be looked at here; the researchers' occasionally suggest that CNN presents a "liberal" point of view, to which we could only roll our eyes.
We also wish that, instead of positing that CNN and Fox are somehow equally "partisan" sources of news, the researchers had added an element of fact-checking, since Fox is by any objective measure far more likely to just outright lie and distort in its coverage — and we're quite certain that's not just our partisanship speaking. And of course, since the paper is a preprint, it hasn't yet been peer reviewed, so it may yet undergo revisions.
The researchers acknowledge that the research design may have at least partly influenced the results, since the participants might have paid "unusually close attention to CNN, since they knew there would be quizzes on its content" that would determine whether they got their $15 per hour. But since the CNN viewers also became less likely to agree with stuff that was being emphasized on Fox, it seems that just getting out of the Fox infospace had an effect as well. Broockman and Kalla also suggest that further research attempt to replicate their findings in other directions, like having regular MSNBC viewers watch Fox News for a month, which sounds to us like the sort of torture no university's human subjects committee could approve.
Still, the study seems to suggest that if you can get Fox News viewers away from the steady stream of bullshit, they can once again become useful members of reality again, which is pretty encouraging.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. To support our fart-joke-biased but factually scrupulous news and analysis, please give $5 or $10 a month, if you can.
We watch so you don't have to.
The Republican Party has long given up on governance or the appearance of even trying. It's so plain that even when they publicly confess that truth, it's met with a shrug rather than any pushback.
Translation: We have no agenda other than obstructing like it's 2008!
It's nevertheless infuriating when the GOP tries to cover its bullshit with a thin veneer of legitimacy.
Roy Blunt on ABC's 'This Week'
A great example of this is GOP Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who got his own dedicated Wonkette post about this earlier today. Blunt was asked about where he stood on the upcoming vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Blunt decided to pretend he just really wanted to be a part of this historic moment, but just couldn't vote for this particular person:
BLUNT: Really, there are two criteria, I said immediately. One is, is the person qualified for the job? And two is, what's her judicial philosophy?
She's certainly qualified. [...] But the judicial philosophy seems to be not the philosophy of looking at what the law says and the Constitution says and applying that, but going through some method that allows you to try to look at the Constitution as a more flexible document, and even the law. And there are cases that show that that’s her view. [...] And I won't be supporting her but I'll be joining others in understanding the importance of this moment.
If only the very qualified Judge Jackson had answered that question about her judicial philosophy. Oh wait. We guess Blunt just missed it during the confirmation hearings or when it was reported by The Wall Street Journal or Slate or The New York Times or Des Moines Register. I'm sure once Sen. Blunt's staff does a quick Google search, he'll get right on confirming Judge Jackson.
John Cornyn on 'Fox News Sunday'
Speaking of lack of consistency, Texas GOP Senator John Cornyn was asked about Donald Trump doing that thing where he asks Russia to interfere in our elections (again) and asks for dirt on a political opponent (again) in plain sight and on tape. Because crimes done in plain view aren't crimes, we guess.
His answer will not surprise you if you've paid attention or have a longer political memory than a goldfish.
Asked on Fox News Sunday about Trump asking Putin for dirt on the Bidens even as Russia wages war on Ukraine, John Cornyn says "I wouldn't trust Vladimir Putin" but stops short of criticizing Trump or calling his comments unwisepic.twitter.com/jGU0CvbkJS— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1648994648
The acrobatics it takes to be against Russia while your presumptive presidential nominee for 2024 and the leader of your party is kissing Putin's ass is "Flying Graysons" level of difficult.
Ron Johnson and Bill Hagerty on Fox News's 'Sunday Morning Futures'
The cover-up of the Biden\u2019s vast web of foreign financial entanglements by our intelligence agencies is the worst corruption I\u2019ve ever seen in the United States government.pic.twitter.com/sTzP5U8dEY— Senator Ron Johnson (@Senator Ron Johnson) 1649079510
Later on the same show, Tennessee GOP Senator Bill Hagerty didn't have much time for questions about mass graves found in Kyiv, because he was on location to do some fearmongering at the OTHER border Fox News is freaked out about. "I want to talk about what's happening here at the [southern] border," he said.
Cornell Belcher on NBC's "Meet The Press"
We conclude with Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher telling a very plain truth that explains why Hagerty and the GOP want to switch topics to immigration, and more broadly why they don't have solutions to any problems.
BELCHER: Let's get real about immigration reform here, right? There's a reason why that's in almost every Republican ad, right? And look, we've seen this play before, right? This is part of that, more fuel for driving the tribalism that Republicans see as part of their political calculus as how they drive this. [...] Dissatisfaction with immigration has been driven by Republicans and they're feeding this. Not so long ago I remember when a guy named Barack Obama thought he had an immigration deal with the Gang of Eight. But it was in the Republicans’ benefit to not have a deal, comprehensive immigration reform, that included border security, that included a pathway. And by the way, most Americans think that you should pay a penalty, and there should be a pathway. And that's not going to happen. You know why it's not going to happen? Because Republicans in Congress don't want it to happen.
They have no plans or solutions because there's no political consequences for it (yet). They are counting on it for the midterms and beyond.
I hope we can prove them wrong.
Have a week.
Wonkette is fully funded by readers like you! If you are able, hit the buttons below to fund Wonkette!
Mitch McConnell Kills Year-Round School Meals. Politico Blames 'Congress.' Go F*ck Yourself Politico :)
Go fuck yourself from both sides, for that matter.
When Congress passed the great big omnibus spending bill earlier this month, there was one item that we just barely noticed at the time. The bill funds the US government for the rest of fiscal 2022 — that is, through September — but one item it didn't include was an extension of the federal program that waived eligibility requirements for school meals, so any family that wanted the meals could sign up, year round, regardless of income. Without the extension, the old eligibility requirements will kick back in place on June 30. Yes, while the pandemic is still with us.
That's actually a pretty significant loss for low-income families, since the USDA waiver program, part of the pandemic relief packages going back to the very first one, provided school meals to an additional 10 million kids per day.
Schools and nutrition advocates had been expecting the program to be extended at least a year (and there's a good case to be made that universal school meals should be permanent, like in some kind of civilized country). So what kept that from happening? As Politico reported earlier this month, there's a real simple reason: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was absolutely opposed to the extension. As a "GOP leadership aide" explained to Politico, the idea was to get control of government spending and return schools to "normal." In Republican-speak, that means free school lunches must be a mark of shame, not something families should rely on.
Also, it was absolutely vital to not spend the $11 billion the extension would have cost, because fiscal responsibility starts with hungry kids.
Not that you'd necessarily know that killing off the school meal funding was entirely McConnell's doing, because Politico had to go and muddy the waters. Instead of headlining the piece "Free school meals end due to McConnell opposition," Politico framed it as if there were many people responsible for the elimination of the waiver program: "Finger-pointing ensues after Congress fails to extend universal school meals." As journalist David Roberts tweeted in an excellent thread on the Politico fiasco,
"Finger-pointing ensues." What? McConnell did it! You can argue over his reasons, but everyone acknowledges he did it! Only one finger need point, in one direction, FFS!
There's at least this much of a hint that the article may have originally pointed a single finger, possibly a middle one, at the real culprit: The article URL contains what may have been the working title: "free-school-meals-end-mcconnell-opposition." Yes indeed, that's what happened!
Politico took pains to hide that, however. For all the article's talk of "a fierce political fight ... over who is to blame," you won't find a single Democrat who called for the waivers to be dropped. But you will find this paragraph indicating that the Senate was originally working toward extending the program, at least temporarily.
There are intense disagreements about how and why the waiver extension was not included in the omnibus bill unveiled early Wednesday morning. Half a dozen sources on both sides of the aisle told POLITICO that the Senate Agriculture Committee was negotiating the details of how to extend the waivers with language that would specify how schools would transition back to normal when the issue got taken out of committee by leadership.
"Intense disagreements"? Not exactly. Nobody involved in the process appears to have said anything about anyone other than McConnell calling for the waiver program to be axed. The article does note, however, that
Nutrition and anti-hunger advocates believed McConnell was opposing the waiver extension as a tactic to extract concessions from Democrats on something else in the ongoing omnibus talks over the weekend, but by late Sunday they said it became clear that the minority leader was just a hard “no” on the policy.
The article also quotes Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), who firmly placed the blame on Republican leadership in a statement to Politico, saying that
Instead of continuing the bipartisan tools and flexibilities to help safely provide meals to students during school and over the summer, which could easily be done in the omnibus, Republican leadership has said NO and decided that they prefer to let our kids go hungry. This is a disgrace!
So where's the intense finger-pointing at Democrats who must be equally responsible here? There isn't any, except from that unidentified "GOP leadership aide" who said that it was time to "clamp down on government spending and get schools back to normal." That aide offered some brilliant retroactive spin that, if you squint really hard through both-sides-colored glasses, attempts to shift the blame from McConnell to Joe Biden, who must surely have wanted the waivers to end. That aide "explained" it was all Joe Biden's fault:
“President Biden submitted a $22 billion Covid supplemental request for the [omnibus spending bill] with not a mention of USDA or nutrition,” the aide said. “So there was no proposal for anyone to block. These were designed as ‘temporary’ Covid measures.”
See? Biden didn't specifically ask "Mitch May I?" so tough luck, kids. Politico notes the aide "repeatedly" suggested the blame was entirely Biden's.
Mind you, if there was never any proposal for McConnell to block, it doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense that sources from both parties told Politico the Ag Committee was working on an extension until it was suddenly pulled by leadership, apparently in response to an ultimatum from McConnell.
Also, for the hell of it, that anonymous GOP aide added that the USDA waiver programs "were designed to encourage schools to close and go virtual," which Politico makes clear is a lie, although the article doesn't call it a lie. Instead, the lie is reduced to yet another item that people just disagree about:
School nutrition leaders note that the waivers are mostly being used to offer free meals to all students and get schools more money per meal to help cover rising food and labor costs. The waivers do not encourage virtual options, but they allow schools to easily serve grab and go meals when students are not on campus, if they want to.
And there you have political journalism in the age of alternative facts: In an article about how Mitch McConnell decided the buck stops with hungry kids during a pandemic, Politico refused to assign any responsibility, claiming instead that we just can't know the real truth, because look at the aide who came up with a nonsensical accusation that Biden Done It.
Did Republicans block aid to hungry kids during the pandemic? They absolutely did. Politico reports on how they attempted to justify it, but then, as Roberts points out, sacrificed that reporting on the altar of Both Sides:
And I guarantee, this story will pretty much be the last anyone hears of it. 10 million kids will suffer a little more based on Republican sociopathy, and 99.999999% of Americans will never know it. Never know what happened and certainly never know who's to blame.— David Roberts (@David Roberts) 1648323660
So McConnell is yanking lunch out of the mouths of 10 million hungry kids and ***even in the news story about him doing it*** responsibility is smeared all over the place, never attached to him. No accountability. Just more dysfunction from "Congress." [Eye-roll emoji]
And I guarantee, this story will pretty much be the last anyone hears of it. 10 million kids will suffer a little more based on Republican sociopathy, and 99.999999% of Americans will never know it. Never know what happened and certainly never know who's to blame.
As Roberts also points out, Democrats can't rely on the media to report even an outrage like this accurately, because "Both-sides disease, the sick politesse with which we treat this shit, makes it impossible for the vast bulk of the public to suss out what's happening." He argues that if Dems had anything even close to the GOP's "communication machine," they could use it to hammer on this message from now until Mitch McConnell is hounded out of polite society:
"Republicans want to cut off hungry kids from free school lunch during a pandemic. We want to feed the kids." Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.
Instead, McConnell wanted to deny a win to Biden on a very popular program that fed hungry children, and Politico was happy to let him get away with it. Gosh, in these hyper-partisan times, why can't Congress ever seem to get anything done? It must be all that political polarization, with wild-eyed radicals on both sides causing gridlock. Sorry, kids. "Congress" failed you.
UPDATE from your Editrix:
Politico's reporter is unhappy with Wonkette and Doktor Zoom and cusses and our misleading ways.
Hi! Glad to see Wonkette interested in these issues. Unfortunately, this story is extremely misleading and completely leaves out significant facts. \n\nDavid apologized to me here: https://twitter.com/drvolts/status/1508844109070491655\u00a0\u2026\n\nKey context:https://twitter.com/hbottemiller/status/1508419593244577797\u00a0\u2026— Helena Bottemiller Evich (@Helena Bottemiller Evich) 1648648751
Roberts did indeed apologize to the reporter for inadvertently causing a Twitter pile on — those suck! — and noting that reporter Helena Bottemiller Evich covers policy, which is important and too few people are doing it. Evich also originally broke the story of McConnell being an entire McConnell.
That doesn't make Doktor Zoom's analysis of it "misleading," and Politico really does need to cut the both sides shit. Evich has continued tweeting her displeasure, including with our rude headline which is apparently of a piece with death threats their team has been receiving for days (??), and this summation for why "both sides" is fair and accurate:
Reminder: The four corners of leadership - Dems and GOP - ALL AGREED to this deal *without the meal waiver extension.* \n\nThis was not a big enough sticking point for either party to blow up the sweeping spending bill (you can make your own judgement about this, but it's a fact.)— Helena Bottemiller Evich (@Helena Bottemiller Evich) 1648470233
We will disagree that that somehow both-sideses it. If McConnell's got an ultimatum or the whole thing blows, as Evich herself first reported, it is in no way "both sides" if one side capitulates to keep the entire government running.
Sorry we said Politico should go fuck itself, sort of, I mean not really, maybe it's a BIT much but ehhh. Nobody should death threat over a both sides story though, that's fucking ridiculous.
Doktor Zoom adds: We were not telling the writers to GFY, and of course death threats are never appropriate. We're simply telling Politico as an institution to go fuck itself, as everyone does, at least once a week.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 a month so we can bring you the straight story, which is that Republicans want to cut off hungry kids from free school lunch during a pandemic. We want to feed the kids. Give EVERYBODY eat!
It's your Sunday show rundown!
It was a cavalcade of conservatives on the Sunday shows, as it so often is, with two topics dominating: Ukraine and the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
So let's just dive right in!
The Bad: Rep. Liz Cheney on 'Meet The Press'
Liz Cheney has received a lot of praise for clearing the very low bar of not supporting insurrection attempts. But as we've said many times, There is no "good Republican." Cheney proves it here when Chuck Todd lobs a softball about whether the current war on Ukraine and the January 6th investigation make in her hindsight regret her vote to not impeach Donald Trump the first time around.
CHENEY: [.H]aving sat through, watching the hearings, watching the evidence that was put on for the first impeachment, at the end of the day, the evidence that was put on didn't make the case.
Translation: I was the third ranking Republican in the House leadership back then. Despite clear evidence of using military aid to extort Ukraine and snubbing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the time because they wouldn't provide fantasy dirt on a political opponent, I chose party over country.
Again: No good Republicans.
The Worse: Sen. John Barrasso on ABC's 'This Week'
George Stephanopoulos asked Barrasso about Josh Hawley's QAnon-dogwhistling attack on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ahead of her confirmation hearings. Barrasso, naturally, deflected without condemning Hawley.
STEPHANOPOULOS: [D]o you think Senator Hawley's attacks were fair?
BARRASSO: Well, he's going to have his opportunity to question the judge as will all the members of the committee. The last time we had a hearing with [Brett] Kavanaugh, he was accused of being a serial rapist with no evidence whatsoever. So, I think we're going to have a fair process and a respectful process, unlike what the Democrats did to Justice Kavanaugh.
"No evidence whatsoever?" If we exclude direct testimony from victims, sure I guess.
Based on what we've seen so far, we're not confident Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz will be respectful, instead of being grandstanding attention-seeking monsters like they always are at these hearings.
The Grim Reaper: Sen. Mitch McConnell on CBS's 'Face The Nation'
We end with probably the most evil and cynical politician to ever be elected to the Senate.
When asked about Ukraine military aid provided by the Senate and President Joe Biden:
MCCONNELL: Well, we've given him plenty of money. I think he needs to step up his game. He's generally done the right thing, but never soon enough.
That's rich coming from a guy who ran a sham trial for Trump during his first impeachment for withholding the timely delivery of similar aid.
MCCONNELL: Well, there's some lonely voices out there that are in a different place. [...]The vast majority of the Republican Party writ large, both in the Congress and across the country, are totally behind the Ukrainians. [...] So, there may be a few lonely voices off the side. I wouldn't pay much attention to them.
"A few lonely voices" is the new "a few bad apples," we guess.
McConnell was also asked about Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearings, and, while he has praised Judge Jackson, he's made it clear how he really feels:
MCCONNELL: I don't want to prejudge how I might actually vote, but I ask her to defend the court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Breyer both publicly opposed court packing that is trying to increase the number of court- court members in order to get an outcome you like, that would have been an easy thing for her to do to defend the integrity of the court. She wouldn't do that.
How dare she not insist the number of SCOTUS seats remain the same, after McConnell cynically stole at least two of them?
Have a week.
Wonkette is fully funded by readers like you. If you love Wonkette, fund it!